Guest post: Where to change your baby (or maybe just their nappy)

Still waiting for the new arrival… but delighted to share this guest post by Hannah Guthrie, a London mum, fellow museum fanatic and blogger over at Everybody in the house of love. No bum notes in this post, looking at a subject likely to strike fear into even the most experienced parent – baby changing facilities! 

I love museums and galleries. There are wonderful opportunities for learning about other cultures, histories to be discovered, beautiful artworks to contemplate and amazing architecture to experience. But best of all, there is coffee, cake and reasonably clean, free toilets. I live in London, where station toilets cost you more than a penny and most public toilets have been turned into trendy cafes. When I got pregnant, finding a half decent loo pretty quickly became a high priority for me. Now I’ve got a 5 month old and only the vestiges of a pelvic floor, the need has only got greater, and my requirements more complicated.

I’m at a wonderfully selfish period of museum mumdom; Dot’s still young enough to be entertained by staring at other museum visitors, so all I really need to think about are where I can change her nappy and where can I get that coffee and cake. To be honest, most museum coffee shops are too pricey for my pockets, so let’s talk toilets.

At first, I thought I’d use the opportunity of this guest post to have a good old moan about how rubbish baby changing facilities are in some museums. And, honestly, I do hate changing my little girl in most of the facilities we find, but I’m not sure that that’s their fault. I’ve realised that me and the Dotster have quite specific requirements that probably aren’t the same as anyone elses. It’s even more of a problem since she’s developed a phobia of changing tables (and just when doing the research for this post – good timing Dot!). So I thought that I’d take it as an opportunity to celebrate all manner of baby changing facilities and list my top 10 things that make a good one. But this is my list; please leave a comment below to say what makes the perfect facilities for you and your brood.

Disclaimers – the things that make Dot and me special:

  • The Dotster is only 5 months old and she’s my only kid
  • So far, she doesn’t roll if I put her on her back
  • We use cloth nappies, it shouldn’t make that much of a difference but it does mean I need a little more space for all my dry bags and wet bags and various layers
  • When we’re hitting the museums, I normally wear Dot in a carrier of some sort. We sometimes use the buggy but it’s often Dot strapped to my front and a rucksack on my back. And then there’s coats, umbrellas, muslins and sun hats stuffed into my hands and pockets. This means I need hooks and more hooks and surfaces, which I’ll come to later.

So, in my opinion, these are the things that make the best changing facilities:

  1. good light so I can see where I’ve managed to get poo on myself before I come out into the galleries
    A good amount of space and light in the classic accessible loo and baby change combo at The Wellcome Collection

    A good amount of space and light in the classic accessible loo and baby change combo at The Wellcome Collection

  2. a sink so I can wash that poo off
    A sink and double changing mat hidden in the Ford Centre for Young Visitors at the British Museum

    A sink and double changing mat hidden in the Ford Centre for Young Visitors at the British Museum

  3. a toilet because sometimes I need a wee too and it’s easier to get us both done in the same trip
    Nice and close at the Bank of England Museum

    Nice and close at the Bank of England Museum

  4. a chair or at least a lid on the toilet, so I can sit down while trying to juggle her back into the sling, or I can just use it to put my bag and coat on while I change her so I don’t have to leave them on the floor (because there aren’t any bloody hooks!)

  5. surfaces and hooks are missing from just too many toilets and changing rooms. Where am I meant to put all my stuff!?
    No space or surfaces at The Grant Museum, balancing the nappy bag on my head

    No space or surfaces at The Grant Museum, balancing the nappy bag on my head

  6. space is especially important if I’ve got a buggy with me. Please please, can there be room for it, me, my girl and enough space to close the door too so I can at least muffle her changing table phobia screams?
    Lots of space and surfaces in the designated baby change room at The Geffrye Museum

    Lots of space and surfaces in the designated baby change room at The Geffrye Museum

  7. things in sensible places because when I’m trying to keep one hand on her feet so she doesn’t smear herself in excrement, it would be really helpful if the bin was by the changing table rather than on the other side of the room, why is it always on the other side of the room?
    Nice surfaces at Tate Modern but why is the bin so far away? And why didn’t I just think to move it closer?

    Nice surfaces at Tate Modern but why is the bin so far away? And why didn’t I just think to move it closer?

  8. more than one option is especially important at places that are crowded with families. If she’s dropped a big one I really don’t care what the facility is like as long as I can get there quick and there isn’t a queue of people waiting to use it
    Nice big changing benches in male and female loos at The Museum of Childhood as well as in this ‘Quiet Room’ with bottle warmers, comfy chairs and extra loo

    Nice big changing benches in male and female loos at The Museum of Childhood as well as in this ‘Quiet Room’ with bottle warmers, comfy chairs and extra loo

  9. Signage is really key, it’s ok to have lots of baby changing facilities but if you don’t tell people that the accessible toilet is also a baby change I’m left wandering around poking into every loo I come across. And having multiple changing facilities isn’t that helpful if your signage only directs people to one (I’m looking at you British Museum!)
    Lots of light, space and surfaces in a secret loo and changing station at the British Museum

    Lots of light, space and surfaces in a secret loo and changing station at the British Museum

  10. Finally, the best thing is front of house staff who are happy for me to just get on with it wherever and whenever the need takes us. Because actually, it isn’t that mucky most of the time, and I do bring my own wipes.
    Dot about to have her nappy changed on the floor at The Southbank Centre; so much easier when I don’t have to gather everything up and schlep to a loo.

    Dot about to have her nappy changed on the floor at The Southbank Centre; so much easier when I don’t have to gather everything up and schlep to a loo.

Ooh, secret museum nappy changing facilities – thanks for the heads up! What makes or breaks a baby change for you? Comment below! You can read more of Hannah’s writing here: Everybody in the House of Love

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